UK: Court Gags Guardian Over Barclays Tax Evasion Memos

Injunction forces news website to remove seven leaked memos showing how bank avoided hundreds of millions of pounds in tax

Guardian
17 March 2009

Barclays Bank obtained a court order early today banning the Guardian from publishing documents which showed how the bank set up companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax. The gagging order was granted by Mr Justice Ouseley after Barclays complained about seven documents on the Guardian's website which had been leaked to the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, Vince Cable.

The internal Barclays memos – leaked by a Barclays whistleblower – showed executives from SCM, Barclays's structured capital markets division, seeking approval for a 2007 plan to sink more than $16bn (£11.4bn) into US loans.

Tax benefits were to be generated by an elaborate circuit of Cayman islands companies, US partnerships and Luxembourg subsidiaries.

The documents had been leaked to Cable by a former employee of the bank, who wrote a long account of how the bank works. The anonymous whistleblower wrote to Cable: "The last year has seen the global taxpayer having to rescue the global financial system. The taxpayer has already had a gun put to their head and been told to pay up or watch the financial system and life as we know it disappear into a black hole.

"It is a commonly held view that no agency in the US or the UK has the resources or the commitment to challenge SCM. SCM has huge amounts of resources, the best minds rewarded by millions of pounds. Compare this with HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs] recently advertising for a tax and accounting expert with the pay at £45,000.

"Through the use of lawyers and client confidentiality SCM regularly circumvents these rules, just one example of why HMRC will never, in its current state, be up to the job of combating this business." ...

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Original headline: "Barclays gags Guardian over tax"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/17/barclays-guardian-injunction-tax